For Priyanka, SPG out, intruders in
Seven trespassers allegedly drove into Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s Lodhi Estate home last week, got off the car and walked inside to take selfies with her, the security breach occurring days after her Special Protection Group cover was replaced with Z-plus security.
Sources said it was “unthinkable” how the car could have made its way in on November 25 despite 40 CRPF personnel guarding the Congress general secretary’s home.
The same day, the Centre tabled the SPG (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha, taking the families of former Prime Ministers out of the ambit of the elite force’s protection, 17 days after withdrawing the Gandhis’ SPG guards.
Priyanka was at a meeting when the security breach took place, sources said.
“The car drove right up to the porch near the garden. Three men, three women and a girl got off the vehicle.
They said they were members of the same family,” a senior CRPF officer told The Telegraph.
Hearing the trespassers arguing with her staff, Priyanka stepped out of the meeting.
“The intruders walked up to her and sought selfies, telling her they were her fans. She was visibly surprised but spoke to them politely. They took pictures with her before leaving.”
Priyanka’s office has taken the matter up with the CRPF brass.
Junior home minister G. Kishan Reddy said he was not aware of the incident. “I’m not aware.… I shall discuss it with my officers,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
While withdrawing the SPG cover of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka on November 8, the Centre had said there was no “direct threat” to them and also accused them of repeatedly violating their security protocol. In late August, the government had removed the SPG cover of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Senior CRPF officers declined comment, saying a detailed inquiry was on. One of them, however, passed the buck to Delhi police, saying: “The responsibility of access to the residence is that of Delhi police.”
Contradicting him, a Delhi police officer said it was the CRPF that had opened the gates for the car. “How could they allow the vehicle in without any checks? Security is their responsibility and they are unnecessarily shifting the blame to us.”
On November 27, home minister Amit Shah had told Parliament that the SPG (Amendment) Bill would restore the original intent of the act, enacted in 1988 only to protect the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers.
He accused previous governments of amending and “diluting” the original law from time to time, an apparent allusion to the extension of SPG cover to members of the Gandhi family.
Shah justified the withdrawal of the Gandhis’ SPG cover: “I want to tell the House that security has not been withdrawn but changed based on the threat perception.”
The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, proposes to provide SPG cover only to serving Prime Ministers and their immediate family members if they live with him at his official residence. A former Prime Minister will receive the cover for five years. The amendments now await passage in the Rajya Sabha.